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Michael Watson in front of a microphone
Secretary of State Michael Watson shares his conservational goals with Mississippians, stating that he plans to safeguard natural resources, which is why he created the Conservation Task Force. “Our goal is to not only improve our state’s natural resources, but use them in a responsible manner to better Mississippi,” he writes. Photo by Ashton Pittman

Sound Conservation Practices Benefit All Mississippians

Mississippians are blessed with great hunting grounds, an abundance of productive farmland, vibrant forests, and pristine bodies of water for fishing and boating. While I understand not all people are outdoor enthusiasts, our natural resources provide a tremendous benefit to our state’s economy and quality of life, and they are a means of improving human health. The quality of our air, drinking water and the foods we eat—along with the enjoyment nature provides—directly affect our welfare, and conservation affects us all. 

As state lands commissioner, trustee of the state’s tidelands and a lifetime Mississippian, I uphold my duty to safeguard these resources for our posterity and prosperity, which is why I created the Conservation Task Force. Our goal is to not only improve our state’s natural resources, but to use them in a responsible manner to better Mississippi.

As the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation reports, Mississippi’s 782,000 sportsmen spend approximately $2.2 billion per year. Prestigious companies like Primos, Mossy Oak, Nautic Star, Winchester and countless small businesses equip Mississippians for, and provide access to, a variety of outdoor experiences. Our state provides a great business climate for outdoor-related industries, but we can do more to attract them.   

Additionally, outdoor recreation supports 33,584 jobs in our state, not including those in forestry and agriculture (which sound management practices directly affect). Natural resources largely fuel our economy, and a more intentional approach toward conservation as an economic driver would result in an economic boom for Mississippi.

Creating Desire to Stay in Mississippi

The regional declines in the state’s population from the 2020 census is another issue we can address with the implementation of our natural resources. Millennials are leaving our state faster than any other state. We desperately need their talents at home to move our great state forward. This generation is increasingly passionate about the outdoors, I find, and is discovering more ways to enjoy them through hiking, kayaking and other activities. 

To enhance quality of life and create a desire to stay in the Magnolia State, we must ensure that current Mississippians and future generations have opportunities for outdoor recreation.

a family hiking on a trail through the woods (conservation)
“To enhance quality of life and create a desire to stay in the Magnolia State, we must ensure that current Mississippians and future generations have opportunities for outdoor recreation,” Mississippi Secretary of State Michael Watson writes. Photo by Juliane Liebermann on Unsplash

Our state’s natural resources can serve as an economic driver, improve outdoor hobbyists’ physical and emotional health, and increase people’s affinity for Mississippi. We must expand accessibility to the outdoors and conserve these resources for the future. The Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund is making efforts to this end, on which I have the pleasure of serving as a board member. This undertaking, coupled with other efforts from our Conservation Task Force members, is paving the way for a better Mississippi.  

Our goal is to establish a comprehensive, statewide conservation plan that unifies all state efforts through a singular vision. We must tie together the existing action plans from state agencies, federal agencies, institutions of higher learning and non-governmental organizations to identify the state’s greatest conservation needs. Not only will this objective serve as an example of what happens when we bring the control silos down, but it will also enable us to select the most meaningful and enduring investments in conservation. 

Sound, scientifically driven investments in conservation will drive our economy, improve our overall health and well-being, help retain talented young people and build a better Mississippi. With the necessary funds, talent and efforts unified under a comprehensive conservation plan, we will see benefits to our state that would not otherwise be realized. 

The Conservation Task Force and I are working to make this ambition a reality. When our endeavors bear fruit, the entire state and all Mississippians will benefit for generations to come. 

This MFP Voices essay does not necessarily represent the views of the Mississippi Journalism and Education Group, the Mississippi Free Press, its staff or board members. To submit an opinion for the MFP Voices section, send up to 1,200 words and sources fact-checking the included information to We welcome a wide variety of viewpoints.

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